Wednesday, June 28, 2006

I Need Your Help

Getting old is no fun and being injured is a real drag. You may recall an earlier posting "I'm Injured After All". My pelvic stress fracture (gotten during the WaterTribe Ultimate Challenge UFC) has been taking quite a while to heal, and has been very painful the last couple months, but worse, I've really let it bring me down, big time.

Told only to limit weight bearing activities, and follow the rule "if it hurts, don't do it". So technically I'm not totally sidelined, I can still paddle, swim, and bike. But in all honesty, I haven't really done much of those things since the Challenge. Choosing instead to be self destructive, wallow in self pity, and gain a lot of weight.

I really need to get out of this funk. What can you do to help me? I need your encouragement and support for starters. And then I need your money. There are so many people worse off than I. In trying to turn it around, I've decided to do 2 positive things. Get my butt back on the bike (my least favorite sport), and do it for those who are in more need than I. A great opportunity for fun and fitness, with a good cause.

I've just registered for the MS150 bike tour. I did this ride in 2004, raising $700 for Multiple Sclerosis. Please help me do it again.

Contributions for Multiple Sclerosis research can be made directly to the MS Society (not through me). Go to my participant website here, there is a link titled "Sponsor Me" on the right, for making a pledge by credit card donation on line. All tax deductible. A good cause that will make you feel better too.

I've always found that goals and accountability help me stay on track. My goals are $700 for MS, completing the ride, and loosing 28 lbs. Accountability (and a check on your investment/donation) can be followed on my MS150 training log. I'll update my training, and do a weekly weigh in (I've added a new link on the blog sidebar).

I'm putting it out there, how about you?

Friday, June 23, 2006

Kayak Sailing with a DownWind Sail

SandyBottom paddling and sailing her Kruger Dreamcatcher

There is an interesting and heated debate on downwind sails on the WaterTribe forum titled "Paddle thoughts". It stated out as a thread on paddles, then switched over to sails. If you plan to participate, wear your e-armour. This is a very opinionated group, and not all agree on the topic. Representatives from both Pacific Action Sails and Spirit Sails have also weighed in. (6/27 - Seems this thread was removed from the forum, it was getting ugly).

During the WaterTribe challenges, Class 1 canoe and kayaks, are allowed a downwind sail if it is less than 1 meter, no lee-boards or outriggers are allowed in this class. Many choose to use a sail for the challenge distances (300 miles for the Everglades Challenge). In the Ultimate Florida Challenge, UFC (1200 miles) there were five paddlers who began in class 1, all were using Pacific Action Sails except one, SharkChow (the eventual winner) was using a Spirit Sail. All had kayaks or Kruger canoes with rudders . Three finished in class 1, SharkChow, Doobrd and myself.

If questioned, I believe all would say they paddled the Challenge, none would say they sailed it. The sail definitely helps. It might increase your speed, or allow you to paddle with less effort for a given pace. With wind, you can eat or take a rest while still moving forward at more than a 0 mph pace. But, the only way to finish these challenges in Class 1, is to keep paddling.

I chose to use the Pacific Action Sail (PAS). I also own a Spirit Sail, but have personally found the PAS more to my liking. I found it to be extremely easy to use and change with the wind. I felt it was easy to use in beam winds as well as downwind angles. This would not be true if I hadn't a good rudder. In the photo above, I have adjusted the sail down to the boat for a beam wind (rather than upright in a V for downwind). I prefer the forward bow attachment, and the easy deployment and release of the sail using the lines attached.

There is also an article, a review of the Pacific Action Sail, written by Steve Isaac, head of WaterTribe, on the WaterTribe Magazine. Check it out at "Class 1 Sailing to the Max".

Much of the discussion (or argument) in the forum thread has to do with how much into the wind, or angle of beam wind, the downwind sails will accommodate. All agree they do not paddle upwind. However, I believe the PAS will sail closer into the wind than a Spirit sail will allow, and in fact the Spirit Sail does not even adjust for beam angles.

When PAS offered to provide me with a sail for the UFC, they advised me to use the sail even in low winds when I didn't think it would help. I did, and with the daily mileage I was paddling, I'm convinced it helped. Some would even describe it as "cheating".

Left: AlaskanSeaHorse paddle sailing his Current Designs Stratus

Right: ThereAndBackAgain paddle sailing his Kruger Seawind into the sunset

Below: SandyBottom's Kruger Dreamcatcher on the move.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Do It Your Way

I'm always looking for inspiration, and another way. One of the things that originally interested me in WaterTribe, and that keeps me going back, has to do with it's mission statement. It encourages uniqueness.

"The purpose of WaterTribe is to encourage the development of boats, equipment, skills, and human athletic performance for safe and efficient coastal cruising using minimal impact human and wind powered watercraft based on kayaks, canoes, and small sailboats."

Meeting this purpose, you get a group of real individuals participating in a Challenge, each in their own way. A WaterTribe Challenge is an unsupported, expedition style adventure race for kayaks, canoes, and small boats. Challengers paddle or sail a variety of different kinds of boats, all setup somewhat differently, using equipment that may also have had modifications, and arriving at each event having trained in ways that suited themselves. Some of the challengers who live in colder climates have not even been on the water for 3-4 months prior to a Challenge.

I don't know of any other boating event where you can have such a disparate variety of boats, all within the same class. Imagine that Class 1, allowing both kayak or canoe, with or without a small downwind sail, has included boats that vary from a fast 18' long 21" wide fiberglass QCC 700 sea kayak, to a slow 9'8" long 32" wide Stearns inflatable kayak from West Marine, competing against each other. You can really get a feel for the variety of boats and individuals by reading the many articles they have written of past WaterTribe Challenges, published in the WaterTribe Magazine.

Photo at left is of Matt Layden (Wizard) in that inflatable he paddle/sailed in the Michigan WaterTribe 2003 Challenge. See his article "The Michigan Challenge in a Bubble or What Was He Thinking"

Prior to my finding WaterTribe, if you had asked me about "unique" paddlers who inspire me, I would have told you of two women, also famous for doing it their own way, Audrey Sutherland and Jill Fredston. These are women who are extreme expedition travelers extraordinaire. They have found what works for them, and do not feel bound by the 'typical' way of doing things.

Audrey Sutherland is an inspiration, and an icon of solo wilderness kayaking. Audrey travels the world in an inflatable kayak. Her philosophy is "go simple, go solo, go now". Her choice of an inflatable is certainly considered unconventional in the kayaking world of expedition. She is all about efficiency, light weight, planning, preparedness, and just doing it. She has paddled nearly 7,800 solo miles of British Columbia and Southeast Alaskan coastline. A longtime resident of Hawaii, she started her solo trips paddling the Hawaiian islands, and has also explored South Pacific archipelagos, Norwegian fjords and the Greek isles, all in an inflatable. I'd read that since she began paddling some 36 years ago, Audrey Sutherland has paddled more that 12,000 solo miles. And, the best of all, she's 81 years old, still paddling.

Audrey has written two books, "Paddling my Own Canoe" and "Paddle Hawaii". Considered a living legend by some, her philosophy and unique style are a rare treat. In an October 2004 Sea Kayaker Magazine interview she was asked:

"I think many paddlers, women especially, regard you as a role model. How do you think you may have inspired others?" She replied "inspiration without nuts and bolts practicality and bit-by-bit efficiency is futile".

Jill Fredston, isn't even a paddler, she is an expedition rower. Her boat is a modified Necky double sea kayak, opened up between the two cockpits where a rowing sliding seat is installed. Jill and her husband Doug Fesler are avalanche experts living in Alaska who, during their summers, take long distance rowing expeditions throughout the northern latitudes of Alaska, Canada, Greenland, Spitsbergen and Norway and Sweden. This for three months of each year. A dream come true.

Jill's book "Rowing to Latitude", is one of my all time favorite expedition books, where along with great stories of her and her husbands adventures, she talks about how and why she does it her way, rowing. Read an excellent review of her book, I couldn't begin to do it justice. For those who can't, or who will only ever dream about expedition, this is a book that will let you travel with her. An aside, during the trips described in her book, her husband would paddle along side, I've recently read somewhere that Doug is now also rowing.

In one place in her book, she mentions always getting asked 'how can you stand not seeing where you are going", her fantastic reply was something like, "how can you stand not seeing where you've been".

An article on Jill in begins with:

A U.S. Navy adage maintains that it's foolish to travel north of the Arctic Circle clad in anything less than a nuclear submarine. Most people would agree. For rower Jill Fredston, however, ignoring such advice has become an intoxicating way of life.

Jill says her journeys are "neither a vacation nor an escape, they are a way of life".

These two women don't just dream their dreams, they live them, and they live them their own way.

I totally get that.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Paint it Black

Have you noticed the color black seems to be quite a trend these days in the world of paddling. As in all fads and trends, there are the originals, and then it's a movement.

I remember years back when Dubside, then a student at the East Coast Canoe and Kayak Festival in Charleston, was the mystery man. He had long dreadlocks and wore black from head to tow. On the pond, you could watch him practicing and learning Greenland rolls in his black Feathercraft kayak wearing a black Tuilik. Now, Dubside is a very well known and respected instructor in the world of traditional Greenland kayaking. Still wearing black, definitely an original.

About three years ago in a training class for BCU4*, I met Nigel Law, owner of Savannah Canoe and Kayak, he was one of the coaches. Nigel was paddling a black on black Nigel Dennis Romany, wearing a black paddling jacket, black hat and black sunglasses. With his black hair and beard, I recall thinking it was a really cool look. More than cool actually, quite a sexy look. Nigel also custom makes black colored (graphite coated) Greenland paddles.

Speaking of black, sexy, and paddlers, there is Freya. Freya Hoffmeister is a German paddler and instructor, who has recently become a big name in the US kayak world. Much of this a result of her skilled fast tracking in the world of Greenland paddling and rolling. Possibly her pictures have helped as well.

She is now a regular member of the Symposium circuit, and her recent days paddling part of Wendy Killoran's Circumnavigation of Newfoundland, reported on 'Round the Rock' in Justine Curgenven's Cackle TV website, have bought Freya into many of our homes. One can argue whether Freya is an original (I suspect she is), but certainly she is part of the movement.

Is this movement to black part of the Greenland paddling movement (all originals)? Though I really think it's more than just those black Tuilik's.

Do you have to be a Kokatat sponsored paddler to own a really cool black Kokatat drysuit?

I'm not sure if Derrick Mayoleth's website and blog is the "original" black paddling website and blog. There are actually quite a few of them, even one that was not of black background last week, but is today.

Regardless, Derrick's site is without argument one of the most professional out there regards paddling. It's artistic, well written, very active (updated almost daily), informative, and very popular. Not only a blog, but a paddlers website and excellent resource. One of the best! A lot of black, it looks great. I'd call his an original.

Dubside has a new website, DUBSIDE, and naturally it's black too, well worth the visit.

It sounds like Derrick helped Freya launch a new blog, Freya Underground, black of course.

Have you noticed another new trend in the world of paddling websites and blogs, commercialism. Of course there were the originals, now it's a movement. Paddling club websites have always sold hats and t-shirts, and many private blogs often sign up with software allowing advertisement on their sites. Now some private paddling blogs have set up shops on their website/blogs. It's not cheap to do expeditions, competitions, or live the world of Symposiums. Derrick's posting, 'first class traveling set' sort of alludes to this.

My personal opinion, support your smaller local kayak shop, and those who have personally influenced you.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Deep Trouble

Many of us are familiar with the book 'Deep Trouble'. Reading this book many years ago was my first reality check and rude awakening to the very real dangers of sea kayaking. The book describes true and harrowing stories of paddling trips gone wrong, and the lessons learned from them. These stores are a compilation of articles collected by Sea Kayaker Magazine, which continues to regularly publish additional stories in their magazine.

This past week, there has been a lot of buzz on and other popular forums about the recent rescue off Plum Island, MA. Like many others, I had been following this closely and have been patiently awaiting the promised report by the paddlers themselves.

Their report has just been published on the North Shore Paddlers Network Forum. Both paddlers are very skilled, were gear prepared and wearing appropriate paddling attire for the conditions. They have offered us an excellent report on their unfortunate mis-adventure, and provide some great information and lessons learned. In addition, they solicited comments from Ken Fink, another well known and experienced kayaker and oceanographer who regularly presents on wind and waves. It's well worth the read, and presents a unique opportunity to hear first hand about their experiences. Unfortunately this was not always possible for some in the stories of 'Deep Trouble'.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

More Time to Paddle?

Nothing measures times passing quite like watching your children grow. My youngest turned 18 on Wednesday, and graduated from high school Saturday. She's off to college in August. More time for paddling?

Tana at 12

Tana at 17

Thursday, June 08, 2006

New and Renewed Paddling Friendships BIKs Kayaking Symposium

I spent last weekend at Lamar Hudgens's Barrier Island Kayaks (BIK) 2006 Southern Outer Banks Sea Kayaking Symposium, in Swansboro N.C. This has become an annual event at Lamar’s, and it’s been getting better and better every year. A great example of southern style and hospitality, Lamar keeps it intimate, casual, and informal. There is always something for everyone. Photo of Lamar and me.

This years big name was again Nigel Dennis from the UK, while other well known coaches came from as far north as Maine, down the eastern seaboard, and south from Florida. A special treat was Russel Farrow's music video of his trip to Labrador last year, and Nigel's slide show of his South Georgia Expedition last December. In all there were about 40 students and coaches.

Mark Schoon from Carpe Diem Kayaking Company in Maine talking to his 3* class. Congratulations Kristen, you go girl.

Tom Nickels owner of Ocean Air Sea Kayak, Folly Beach SC, leading the 4* class out to the "zipper" in Bougue Inlet

Aside from the instruction and experience participants gain (that’s a given), this event is perfect for making new and renewing old paddling friendships, discussing paddling destinations and trips (dreamed, and realized), and enjoying the excitement and passion we each feel for the sport. Each evening afforded great opportunity to meet and mingle over cold beers and great food, (Lamar's wife has the best cookouts).

The Boys, Thomas, DrJohn, Bill, and Kevin, regulars at Lamar's. Bill and Kevin are now coaches. Bill has also started a new company "Lumpy Paddles", custom making Greenland Paddles (if interested, I'll get you in touch with him).

So many interesting people. There's always at least one person you seem to connect with at these events. Well this year for me, it was three.

  1. Within minutes of meeting and talking to Rick Wiebush, I sensed a common interest in kayak tripping. It wasn't long before he had me thinking quite seriously about planning a future kayak trip to Baja (a change from my usual cold water trips, ie Maine, Newfoundland, and Michigan). A Google search found a trip report written by Rick about one of his previous Baja trips, Isla Espiritu Santo. Hmmm, then I found another of his trip reports of paddling East Greenland.
  2. Wendy Wicke's love and excitement of life and paddling was so much fun and very contagious (oh, to be 20 years younger). A paddler, environmentalist, and paramedic, looking towards building a new future filled with paddling and teaching paramedics.
  3. Tom Nickels, owner of Ocean Air Sea Kayak at Folly Beach SC. I'd met Tom last year at Lamar's. He is a skilled instructor with an obvious passion for the sport and in working with students. He exhibits a wonderful calmness and patience on the water, in the surf, and in his teaching.

I so enjoyed visiting and paddling with these paddlers. Hopefully I'll get to paddle with them again. Hey, maybe they'd like to go to Baja with me.

Be sure to check out Derrick Mayoleth's blog at for a great article on this Symposium written by Thomas Duncan, new BCU 4* paddler.

My favorite rainbow.

A great sunset, looking down the ICW in Swansboro.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

WaterTribers in the Yukon River Quest

June 28th begins another great wilderness paddling challenge, the 2006 Yukon River Quest (YRQ), a 460 mile (almost non-stop) , gruelling event, which begins in Whitehorse, journeys across Lake Laberge and down the Yukon River to Dawson City. It's billed as the longest endurance marathon canoe and kayak race in the world. This race even starts with a 1/4 mile run to the water.

Having finally moved up in the wait list, and now entered, is the very successful WaterTribe Challenger, Marty Sullivan, known among the tribe as SaltyFrog. Marty, along with his 2006 Everglades Challenge (EC) partner Rod Price (RiverSlayer), won the class 1 category with a double (it was actually a triple) Chesapeake Light Craft Condor kayak they built. 300 miles in 3 days, 6 hrs 30 min, 22 hrs ahead of the next Class 1 boat. Marty will have no trouble in the Quest. In previous ECs Marty has placed 3rd in 2005 and 1st in 2003, in Class 1 solo. Photo on right is Marty and Rod taking the Condor for a test ride during it's final construction. Note that Marty paddled with a wing, and Rod with a single blade.

Marty will not be the first, or the only WaterTriber to enter this race. Carter Johnson (XLXS), and Sally Mason (LilMonster) were the 2006 EC winners in class 2 double, 3days 5hrs 48 min. Unbelievable, yes that was 3days 5hrs 48 min, they entered the EC in a double surfski! So amazing, they even had to wear their GPSs around their neck, stopping to look at charts was not something one can do in a racing double surfski. This pair was so fast, I can't even find any photos of them. They will be racing the YRQ for the second time. They finished 2nd in last year in the mixed tandem kayak class, 50 hrs and 57 min, coming in second to other WaterTribe alums Heather and Brandon Nelson.

Another regular WaterTribe alum and fellow Kruger paddler, Bob Bradford (NightNavigator), placed 1st in the 2005 EC, and 3rd in 2006, Class 2 double. In WaterTribe, Bob partners with his wive NightSong. Bob has been around. He has also previously competed in the YRQ, taking 1st place in 2002 canoe class in 55 hrs 22 min (remember this is 460 miles). Bob is actually quite well known for long distance paddling. In 2003 he completed the Mississippi River Challenge, a 2,348 Mile marathon to support the research of for Rett Syndrome & Leukodystrophy. It took only 18 days 4 hours, and 15 minutes in a Kruger Cruiser with partner Clark Eid to complete this feat. In 2001, Bob and Verlen Kruger won the 2,348 mile Great Mississippi River Race for Rett Syndrome in 24 days 17hrs 51 min.

Just to put it all in perspective, my previous EC times are: 8days 1hr 33 min in 2004, 6 days 13 hrs 22 min in 2005, and 7 days 33 min as part of the first stage of the Ultimate Florida Challenge this year. A cruiser not a racer, I'm always at the end of the pack, but so far, always a finisher.

And, like the WaterTribe Challenges, the Yukon River Quest has been on my "To Do" list for a few years now. I'm not actually sure what would be the biggest challenge, the 460 mile paddle, or the drive up and back, 3,746 miles, 53.5 hours driving one-way.

I have even had some email communication with the YRQ race management this year, and am happy to report that they are considering allowing solo Kruger Canoes next year, Hmmmm........

Good luck to all.

P.S. Registration is now open for next years 2007 WaterTribe Everglades Challenge, March 3-11. I've already signed up.